Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecostal life

Before Jesus entered the glory of the heavenly sanctuary as our great High Priest, the cloud taking him "out of their sight", he told his followers not to leave Jerusalem, but to "wait for the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4). Then he reassured them, "You shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Clearly he said that because of the difficulty of living for him in our own strength, going forth to evangelise just with our human insights and abilities, or trying to establish his new community of love and faith, the Church, merely as a sociological reality. "Power from on high" was what they needed for their mission. (And it's what we desperately need, too.)

So, leaving Mount Olivet they returned to Jerusalem, spending their time between the temple and the upper room. We read that there were "about 120" of them, not just the Apostles. This was the nucleus of the first Church. They waited "with Mary" for the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon them. "With one accord" they "devoted themselves to prayer" (Acts 1:14).

In Serve the Lord With Gladness (p. 51), the late Fr Lev Gillet (who wrote simply as "A Monk of the Eastern Church") remarks that "Even in the context of the Eucharistic liturgy, the Spirit is not given only for the sake of the Eucharist itself. The purpose of His coming is to lead us into Pentecostal life, the life of the Spirit. Have we ever taken seriously the promises of the Lord after His Resurrection, made not only to His apostles but to every believer?"

There is no better time to ask ourselves that question than today - Pentecost Sunday - when we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church.

My prayer for all readers of this blog - whatever tradition you belong to, and whatever "spirituality" nourishes your walk with God at this time of your life - is that you will have the joy of entering more deeply than ever before into the mystery of Pentecost; that the love, the power, the fruit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit will be released afresh in you and in the Church communities of which you are part.

You may be in a time of great blessing at this stage of your life. On the other hand, you might feel more as if you are trudging through the desert, the wilderness. Well, that's also part of following Jesus! The fact is that wherever we are right now, the Holy Spirit is working to transform us - individuals and communities - into the image and likeness of Jesus.

We also need to remember that the chief purpose of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the "Promise of the Father" is not to make us feel good, but to empower us to witness in our day to day lives to Jesus and the salvation he offers a crushed, broken and violent world.



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